Music In Advertising: Diplo Vs. BlackBerry : The Record We look at a new ad that pairs the DJ with the smart phone company, and judge who comes out ahead.
NPR logo Music In Advertising: Diplo Vs. BlackBerry

Music In Advertising: Diplo Vs. BlackBerry


It's more and more difficult to find musicians who have a problem selling their music or image for use in film, television or advertising. But just because the credibility battle lines are a little grayer these days doesn't mean they've disappeared. Matters of taste and execution still come into play when musicians get paid to endorse products, and someone always comes out on top.

The Ad: In this installment of BlackBerry's "Love What You Do" campaign, the smart phone brand's "Torch" model gets a spokesperson in Diplo. In a quick succession of cuts, the DJ, producer and "music innovator" -- at least according to his on-screen credit here -- travels around the world, hopping in and out of cars, hotel elevators and dressing rooms with his Major Lazer crew, working in the studio, sending messages to his partners at his Mad Decent label, and pumping up frenzied crowds.

More than anything, the ad has the feel of a casual but well-produced travelogue, as if BlackBerry hired a couple of cameramen to follow Diplo around for a couple of hours in Berlin, Tokyo, New York and Paris before cutting the footage together. It looks like great fun, apart from Diplo's mumbly voice-over, which sounds like the result of the jet-lagged DJ being dragged into a studio and forced to rhapsodize about the joys of instant messaging.

What Blackberry Gets: Diplo's hardly a household name, so you'd expect a stodgy, corporate brand like BlackBerry to contract with him as a way of tweaking the brand's image in a younger direction. Rather than buffing the egos of older BlackBerry customers who might be interested in coasting off the wake of Diplo's cool-factor, this ad aims at a younger audience who -- if they're not familiar with the DJ already -- might understandably aspire to his lifestyle, and don't want to give up the dream of hipness just because they're seriously considering the purchase of a $500 phone.

Also noteworthy: the text of the ad emphasizes the utility of the device over its design or features (for an awkward visual metaphor, check out the shot at 0:39 where Diplo's collaborator uses the Torch to push the fader). Even Twitter and Facebook apps get cast as ways to keep in touch with a world-wide crew rather than time-wasters.

What Diplo Gets: "I can't believe that people people are actually paying me to travel around the world, collect new influences, build new sounds with different artists," Diplo says at the outset of the ad. Likewise, money would seem to be his most significant gain from the ad. The ad doesn't feature Major Lazer's music or any of Diplo's more famous collaborators like M.I.A. and Robyn (the music is "Make You Pop" by Diplo and Don Diablo), so it's hard to imagine viewers buying his music based on the ad. It might boost Diplo's reputation as an ambassador to the mainstream, though.

Who Comes Out Ahead: BlackBerry. Diplo gets money and exposure and manages not to tarnish his reputation much, but the device is the star of the piece.